A study shows that exposure to second-hand smoke at home or in the car dramatically increases the odds of children being re-admitted to the hospital within a year of being admitted for asthma.

To determine tobacco exposure, the researchers at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Centre and Penn State Milton S. Hershey Children’s Hospital measured cotinine in the blood and in saliva of more than 600 children.

Cotinine is a substance produced when the body breaks down nicotine and provides a scientific assessment of tobacco exposure.

“The ability to measure serum and salivary cotinine levels presents the possibility of an objective measure that can be obtained when a child is seen in the emergency department or in the hospital and may be used to predict future hospitalisations,” says Robert Kahn, senior author of the study.

The researchers studied children between the ages of 1 and 16 admitted to Cincinnati Children’s between August 2010 and October 2011, said the study published in the journal Pediatrics.

Serum and salivary cotinine levels were taken during their hospital stay, and their primary caregivers were asked about tobacco exposure.

All children were followed for at least 12 months to see if they were re-admitted to the hospital.

A scientific analysis of actual second-hand exposure via measurement of cotinine in the blood and saliva demonstrated a re-admission risk in children exposed to second-hand smoke more than twice that of children not exposed, said the study.


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